Thursday, October 18, 2007

Exacerbation (no it's not a bad word)

We learn a whole new vocabulary when we care for a loved one with a chronic illness: COPD, CHF, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, pulmonary function, spirometry, atrial fib, MS, arthritis, alzheimer's, scleroderma, fibrosis and on and on and on.

Exacerbation is not a bad word - it's a terrible word! It means your loved one, the person you are caring for has just gotten worse. Their symptoms are progressing; their health regressing.

This is where we are today. Hubby's chest feels heavy. He is tired - not the usual tiredness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but really weary. Nausea, headache and just feeling fragile. He doesn't have cold symptoms - no runny nose or sore throat or cough. So we can't blame these symptoms on a cold. Even though some of the symptoms are the same (fatigue, heavy chest, nausea, headache) an exacerbation is a step down, a worsening of his condition.

The treatment is pretty much the same: antibiotics and prednisone. We're lucky in that his pulmonologist insists that we have this "action plan" (medicine) at home to use when he needs it. No extra trip to the office for the doctor to tell us what we already know. So, we count our blessings.

We never know when an exacerbation will hit. We never figure out why. COPD is a rollercoaster ride - some days bad, some days good. There is no rhyme or reason. It just is. Ask anybody on a Support Group List. They'll tell you.

This is the "living day to day" lesson for us. We take the good days and enjoy them and try and get through the bad.

Hubby and I have had a good summer. Here in Montreal, Quebec, our weather was warm - not too hot and not that really humid stuff that makes it difficult for COPD and heart patients to breathe. So, it was good and I am thankful.

Autumn is another story. Transition time. We get warm days and cold nights. Then cold days and warm nights. No wonder people get sick! The fragile body of the chronically ill has a hard time adjusting to temperature changes - not to mention the barometer!

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